Food gives us the building blocks for our bodies and our brains.  When you are pregnant you can give your baby the best start by taking a good look at your diet to see where it may need a tweak or two.  Since pregnancy is a time of change and excitement over the coming new baby, it’s a great time to motivate yourself to move towards a healthier diet and start those eating habits you do want to pass on to your children!

While we all have moments of weakness and indulge in candy or junk food, doctors point to overall diet as the important focus.  Don’t beat yourself up over one fast food meal or a snack of candy and soda at the movies.  Do remember, however, that overall you want to be eating less refined sugar and high fat foods.  These foods contain large amounts of “empty calories,” calories that don’t come with lots of nutrition.  But that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice flavor and enjoyment.  Think about the fresh foods you like best- fruit in season and tasty combinations like yogurt and fresh berries or whole grain bagels with peanut butter and honey.  So often, fresh foods are even more flavorful than junk foods.

When you are pregnant you need about 300 more calories a day.  Experts encourage pregnant moms to add these in as healthy snacks or “mini meals” throughout the day.  It’s important that your baby gets a steady stream of nutrition and this is one way to do it.  If you think of eating a small portion of a meal every 2-3 hours this will help you to provide those important “building blocks” to your baby all day long.

Instead of being overwhelmed by the idea that all of a sudden, not only do you need to eat more, you also need to eat healthier, focus on little changes.  Increase the following “super foods” for pregnant moms into your daily or weekly diet:

  • Vegetables: leafy greens, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, green pepper, tomato, squash or pumpkin and carrots.  Vegetables include high amounts of vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, vitamin A, folic acid and iron.  They also tend to have high amounts of fiber which can help with constipation.  And they can be yummy!  Think dipped in onion dip made with greek yogurt or grilled with olive oil, pepper and a touch of paprika or turmeric.
  • Fruit.  Nothing is more luscious than fresh berries, fruit salad or a crisp crunchy apple.  Look for the fruit that is in season-both for the best flavor and the most antioxidants.  Citrus fruit, cantaloupe and honeydew melons or apricots are great picks, but it’s also good to vary your choices so that you get a wide variety of nutrients over a week or two.
  • Milk, cheese and yogurt are excellent ways to get your calcium, and they go so well with the fresh fruits and vegetables!  Or try whole grain crackers with lower fat cheese.  It’s good to get four or more servings of dairy each day, so feel free to include these in a number of meals and snacks.  The form is not so important, just so that you eat enough to grow strong bones for your baby.
  • Whole grains and fortified breads are important parts of a healthy pregnancy diet.  Don’t give up your toast or bagel for breakfast, just check to make sure you are eating whole grain foods.  Oatmeal is a wonderful way to increase the whole grains in your diet.  Try adding fruit or nuts to it to give it more texture and a more interesting flavor.

Then there are foods its best to avoid or cut out altogether from your diet when you are pregnant.  These include:

  • Raw eggs, fish and shellfish and sprouts .  While you are pregnant it really is important to give up sushi and other forms of raw seafood, foods containing raw egg and vegetable sprouts.  These foods can contain bacteria that make pregnant women very sick.
  • Also avoid soft cheeses like feta, Brie, Camembert, blue-veined, and Mexican-style cheese.   Soft cheeses are often made with unpasteurized milk which can cause a Listeria infection.  Regular hard cheeses, cream cheese, processed cheese and cottage cheese are fine.
  • Limit your caffeine to 300 mg per day.   This means 1-2 8 oz cups of coffee or 3 of black tea.  Don’t forget to add in the caffeine in chocolate (a regular chocolate bar is equal to about ¼ cup coffee) and soda.
  • Don’t drink alcohol.  The affects of alcohol have been linked to mental retardation, birth defects and premature delivery.  Best not to risk such sever outcomes while pregnant.

Of course, while these recommendations are based on good medical advice, each person’s situation is different.  Please consult with your obstetrician if you have any questions or concerns and follow his/her instructions.

Finally, if you want to learn a little more about nutrition and pregnancy, try checking out the following websites.  WebMD has great information in easy to read articles.  MyPlate.com has a wonderful resource called Super Tracker where you can enter the foods you eat and it will create reports and recommendations just for you.  It also has a place to track your exercise, create menus and journal about your progress.

Whether you are the type who likes to track every calorie or the type who reads from lots of different sources and then finds her own way, don’t let pregnancy nutrition stress you out.  Focus on fresh, wholesome foods and enjoy the need to eat a little extra.  Every bite you eat is building your new baby from the inside out!